DURING HIS 15 years at University College Dublin, Sligo man Dr Pádraic Conway was a friend, colleague and mentor to many staff, alumni and students of the university.
From 1997 to 2004 he was director of development at UCD, spearheading its efforts to attract significant investment through philanthropy and the government’s programme for research in third-level institutions that would ultimately transform the campus.
From 2004 until his untimely death on October 5th, 2012, he served as vice-president for university relations, giving recognition to the critical importance of the university’s interaction with society.
He was also director of the UCD International Centre for Newman Studies.
His enormous capacity to enjoy the companionship of others, his interest in their lives and thoughts and his gift for repartee and anecdote made him a unique figure.
Born and bred in Sligo town, he remained a proud Sligoman throughout his life, attributing many of his achievements, his views and loyalties to his home town and the good common sense of its citizens. He attended Summerhill College, Sligo, from 1974 to 1979 before going on to study French and philosophy at UCC and subsequently biblical and theological studies at TCD.
His training was in theology, for which he had been elected a Trinity scholar in 1988. This gave him a rare ability to combine judicious use of scripture with practical management.
His academic rigour was seamlessly married to his acute emotional intelligence; an alliance of formal intellectual prowess and charisma which the discipline of theological reflection nurtured in him. In religion, he was just the same, reflexively Catholic and relentlessly critical all at once.
On graduating with his PhD, he spent four years working with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a management consultant. It is a tribute to his adaptability and intellectual capability that he was, as a theology graduate, able to successfully work in the fields of computer technology and financial modelling.
He could be partisan in politics but he was also fearless in making his views known on any subject whether popular or unpopular. One of his central theological concerns was “table fellowship”, with the result that he believed in sitting down to talk.
Therefore he spent much of his time resolving and discussing and problematising issues of concern at the table and in convivial settings. He brought all of his endless energy and his force of personality to the table, whatever table it was, every time he met to do business, friendship or to celebrate life.
His work for Accenture, Trócaire, TCD and subsequently UCD was all about development, about making sure that organisations and the people in them reached their full potential and explored all of the possibilities open to them.
He was the master of the deadline, capable of working at lightning speed and with impressive results.
More recently, he began to return to his academic roots in language, literature and the Bible. His memory for dates and anniversaries meant that he rarely let a good commemorative occasion slip by.
His last academic venture, a conference on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, which took place in UCD’s Newman House on Thursday last, encapsulates so much of his approach to learning. This was no retrospective enterprise but a “critical examination” of “enduring significance” of the council. In other words continuing aggiornamento, typical of his reluctance to let sleeping dogs lie.
An article he wrote for The Irish Times on Vatican II was published on Monday.
Among his many interests was a love of sports. First and foremost among these was his lifelong commitment to the GAA. Although never a great player himself, he worked tirelessly for Sligo GAA, where he served as president of the Friends of Sligo Football in 2003. He also loved rugby and was proud of having captained the Sligo under-15 team of 1977.
He was always on the move, mobile phone pressed to his ear, waving a greeting to one of many friends and colleagues, and was a very recognisable figure at UCD.
Conway was always entertaining, sometimes combative, but never boring. He embodied all features of Belfield life: the academic, sporting, social and political. He is survived by his wife Áine and daughter Grace.Irish Times